Monday, July 14, 2014

Coup du Jour: The Militarization of Daily Life

Guatemala City, August 8, 1983: Troops Seize the Presidential Palace

“Is today a patriotic holiday of some kind?”

My inquiry had been provoked by the abundance of armed soldiers being ferried through the streets of Guatemala City. My friend, a native Guatemalteco, shook his head, a puzzled frown creasing his features.

“Then why are there so many troops on the streets?” I persisted, directing his attention to the grim-faced, uniformed figures visible beyond the windows of our “Chicken Bus.” It was
Monday morning, August 8, 1983, and the two of us were taking a break from our missionary labors to shop for necessities downtown. The concentration of military personnel – and the visible agitation of my native-born friend -- increased as we approached the City Center.

About an hour later, we were intercepted by another missionary while returning to the bus stop.

“The government was overthrown in a coup this morning,” he informed us in a voice drawn taut with urgency. “We're supposed to go back to our apartments, lock the doors, and wait until we're told it's safe to come out.”

Shocked but not entirely surprised, I turned to a third missionary who had joined us in our shopping excursion, a young man from Blackfoot, Idaho, whose reaction to the news was more surprising that the coup itself.

Cool!” he yelped, pumping a fist in the air.
Like any other 20-year-old male, I was a shameless adrenaline junkie, but my response was rather more subdued. 

After returning to our apartment in the suburbs, we turned on the radio and television, both of which were playing a continuous program of music interrupted each hour by a brief speech from Gen. Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores, the figurehead of the officers' putsch that ousted President Efrain Rios-Montt, an erratic general who had been in power for about a year and a half following a previous coup.

Several weeks earlier, Rios-Montt had declared a state of emergency, accusing the military and the media of plotting against him. 

“They are using methods of manipulation to provoke the public against me,” he raved in a televised speech that was broadcast repeatedly in the weeks leading up to the coup, “but I'm still here.” 

Rios-Montt had a mock-Evangelical speaking style that was long on dramatic poses and pauses, longer still on frantic verbal effusions, and all but devoid of substance. Some Guatemalans took to calling him “El Pajaro Loco” -- “Crazy Bird,” the local name for the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker. In retrospect he more closely resembled a well-groomed version of El Guapo, the Bandit Chieftain from Three Amigos

Rios-Montt's abhorrence for Communism was genuine, and nearly as passionate as his contempt for individual liberty. His message to Guatemala’s rural peasantry was simple: “If you are with us, we'll feed you; if you're not, we'll kill you.” 

By all accounts, Rios-Montt displayed Caligulan capriciousness in defining who was “with” or “against” him, and his zeal to kill those perceived as enemies of the state was limitless. He presided over the most sanguinary years of Guatemala’s decades-long civil war, a period in which the army routinely slaughtered entire villages of Maya Indians.

The CIA giveth, and the CIA taketh away, so when Rios-Montt became a liability to his patron he was quietly removed from office. The military faction that collaborated in the coup did so because they were fixated on efficiency, not freedom. The military seized control over the country out of concern that Rios-Montt had mishandled the counter-insurgency campaign.

 For two days following the August 1983 coup, we were confined to our apartments with little more to do than read and listen to military helicopters churning overhead. Eventually we were given the all-clear, but like everybody else in the country we went about our business with a greatly enhanced sense of wariness. 

Once the generals were in undisguised control the violence abated somewhat – although Guatemaltecos found it disconcerting to see dead bodies occasionally materialize on the streets without warning. 

A few weeks after the coup, I was transferred to a small town called La Democracia, which was soon selected to host a counter-insurgency command post. Without notice or explanation the army descended on the town, setting up checkpoints and appropriating a large building as its operations center. Within a few weeks the army had extended its operations into the nearby town of Siquinala, where I would eventually have the stimulating experience of being threatened by a soldier who pointed a U.S.-purchased M16 at my chest.

Memories of my time living under undisguised martial law were summoned by the recent spectacle in Livingston, Illinois, where a military raid was conducted to arrest a solitary man suspected of possessing child pornography. Agents from the Department of Homeland Security, backed by SWAT teams, a Blackhawk helicopter, and officers from several local jurisdictions converged on the home of 34-year-old Robert Godsey, who offered no resistance as he was arrested and his computers were seized. 

Without permission or explanation, the raiders set up a “staging area” on the grounds of the A.R. Graiff Elementary School, displaying the same arrogant indifference to the locals that had radiated from the Guatemalan Army as it seized control of streets and buildings in La Democracia and Siquinala. 

“It’s better to be over-prepared,” smirked Jim Porter of the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois in response to questions about wildly disproportionate use of force. Dutifully regurgitating pre-digested soundbites Porter insisted that the most important consideration for the raiders is to be prepared for what they “reasonably expect might happen.” And since their indoctrination describes the public as an undifferentiated mass of menace, and their role as subduing any potential resistance, rather than protecting property rights, their default setting is “overkill.” 

This obsession with “force protection” – or, as it is commonly called, “officer safety” – is the primary driver behind the 124 SWAT raids that occur, on average, every day in the United States. These are not “paramilitary” raids; they are fully realized military operations carried out with financial support from Washington and material assistance from the Pentagon. The only significant difference between counter-insurgency operations overseas and the ones conducted domestically is the fact that military personnel operate under more restrictive rules of engagement than police officers. 

The SWAT concept itself could be considered a domestic variant of the “Counter-terror teams” assembled by the CIA as part of the murderous “Phoenix Program” in Vietnam. Amid mounting – and overdue, but welcome -- public antipathy toward police militarization, the Homeland Security apparatus has ramped up its longstanding campaign to collect information on activists and commentators who promote “anti-police” attitudes – another homefront adaptation of counter-insurgency methods. 

In 2008, total government spending on “police protection” was $76 billion – nearly half of all “criminal justice”-related expenditures. In the following year the Obama administration poured additional billions of dollars into the Justice Department’s Byrne Memorial Grant program. That program is one of the chief federal funding arteries for “local” police departments – and perhaps the most significant tool the Feds have employed to mobilize police departments and sheriff’s offices in the “war on drugs.” 

The foregoing happened before the most recent push to provide every police agency with surplus war-fighting vehicles – even if their officers patrol tiny rural villages in which crime is all but nonexistent. Of course, the same was true of La Democracia and Siquinala before the Guatemala army showed up to “pacify” them. 

Unlike Guatemala, the United States has not witnessed an overt military coup, yet our society is more pervasively militarized than that country was when I lived there decades ago, at the nadir of a long and brutal civil war. The welcome news is that our rulers haven’t rolled up a comparable body count. The ominous news is that they’re just getting started. 

Dum spiro, pugno!


Anonymous said...

There is a repeated paragraph near the pic of El Guapo.

Keith said...

The economy of the united state has been in the process for some time of morphing into bigger version of a Latin American military dictatorship's economy.

Apart from Mexico and Brazil, the other areas of the Americas bounded by lines drawn on maps, have relatively small populations .

It wasn't too expensive for the "great satan" to prop up a few vassal parasite gangs du jour,

and a defaulted loan to a vassal could be used to extort prime land, mineral resources etc out of the parisitized population, and into the hands of a favoured crony of the great satan.

Since WWii, the united state has had the advantage of being able to print money for next to zero cost, and exchanging that for real goods and services world wide. Since Tricky Dicky defaulted on Bretton Woods, there has been no worry of anyone trying to redeem their worthless paper for gold.

Threats to that privilege, such as Saddam's offers to accept euros for oil, and Khaddafi's suggestions of an actual gold dinar, have resulted in prompt, punitive military action.

German requests for gold which the united state was supposedly holding, have recently been quietly dropped.

More recent offers by the nuke armed Putin to undermine the "petro dollar"

are less easy to head off militarily or diplomatically.

as is the Chinese communist party's sovereign wealth fund's dis-satisfaction with the rate at which the value of it's dollar denominated bond holding is being eroded by yet more paper, hot from the printing presses.

any large scale short selling of dollar bonds would eliminate the great parasite's ability to borrow money.

any better alternative to the Dollar, or popular repudiation of it abroad or in the united state will render it worthless.

Blockchains and the crypto currencies they enable, can render fiat currencies irrelevant, and the crypto currency can only be seized if the wallet holding it, and its pass words are seized

Even conservatives are beginning to sound sort of libertarian on the subject of levels of taxation, and those tax levels are already way higher than the supposed optimum on the Laffer curve.

If the big parasites expect to live in a "green zone" while operating a reign of terror on their mundane hosts, they'll have to work out how to pay their minions to undertake big raid like the Livingston Illinois one.

They can't print paper any faster without a repudiation of the dollar, and the very existence of fiat currencies could be very near to being rendered obsolete.

They can't tax any harder without a revolution, and when crypto currencies do take off properly, they will be almost unable to extort tax at all.

They can only borrow more if they offer prime assets as collateral

Is that what the attempted Bundy Ranch seizure was all about?

William N. Grigg said...

Thanks for pointing this out. I've had several problems today with odd text duplications; apparently I missed at least one of them. I appreciate the second set of eyes. :-)

Anonymous said...


Mr. Grigg,
There is STILL a duplicated paragraph in your essay, beginning with "Several weeks earlier, Rios-Montt had declared a state of emergency," and ending with "the Bandit Chieftain from Three Amigos."
Be well,

Anonymous said...

Another great article! Please continue to post your twitter, Facebook, and online radio show links at the end of every article bc so many new people who are sent your columns will want to follow you on social media or listen to your show. I would love to see you start doing a YouTube channel, too! These days people make decent money off of YouTube videos once an audience is built up. And I still think you should allow an amazon link so we can buy books and products through this site and give you a percentage.

JdL said...

I'm reminded of Alice's Restaurant, except that was funny, benign, and local, while this is unfunny, malignant, and nationwide. I was particularly horrified at the Fox "News" clip, playing up the "Gee whiz, isn't it great, and exciting for kids looking for that special laudatory career, that our country is at war with itself?" meme (lest anyone object, I'm sure that left wing media did the same). All to put one twisted guy in prison for twenty years. And I get to pay for both the twisted guy's room and board AND for the toys and salaries of the self-righteous warriors who busted him. Such a deal!

Lemuel Gulliver said...


The military has already refused on a few occasions to follow proposed orders from the President, letting it be known that such orders would not be followed, such as bombing Iran. Take this or leave it - I won't argue the point - but Julian Assange worked for the Pentagon, which ran Wikileaks in order to embarrass and obstruct the State Department and the CIA. The military HATES those groups, because they cause the mischief while the military has to do the killing and dying on their behalf. After 14 years of war on behalf of the banksters, oiligarchs, (not a typo) and Israel, the military has had enough.

If any organization in this country can restore our Constitutional freedoms, and reverse the increasing rule of the oligarchs, and the corruption of the Supreme Court, it will be the military. Only a military coup will change anything. (Which is ironic, given Mr. Grigg's article above.) The American public over the last 100 years has deliberately been made dumb, complacent, and utterly lacking in any sort of moral fiber. The political and judicial processes will never change this country from its slide into banana-republicanism - it will only get worse and worse, as we all sink into a morass of enslavement.

It may already be too late. There are several countries working towards a change in the world order, starting with collapsing the dollar, and thereby making it impossible for the US to afford its immense military machine. If they succeed, we can look forward to poverty and hardship like we have never imagined.

But if this comes to pass, we should not be upset. It would be far better than a global nuclear war, which WILL come to pass if the neocons, the CIA, the State Department, and all the other Zionist-infested organs of government have their way, and keep on their present course.

Al Qaeda now has heavy weapons, stolen from the Iraqi military. This was only possible because WE - the State Department and CIA - trained, financed and equipped them in Syria with the aim of overthrowing Assad, to please Israel. NOW these same people - ISIS - want to take over Spain and Rome, and have said that some day they will arrive right here in New York.

Israel does not care about this - they will have accomplished their objective of deposing Assad, as WE deposed Saddam for them, and WE deposed Gaddafi for them, and we for 40 years now have pursued the Israeli policy agenda at an immense cost in American blood and American treasure.

There you have it. This is NOT an anti-Jewish diatribe. Merely a lament that a large majority of the Jews in America seem to be more loyal to Israel than to America, and the remainder who disagree are cowed into silence.

I hope and pray for a military coup in this country, soon, before we all end up frying in a nuclear firestorm.

- Lemuel Gulliver

Lemuel Gulliver said...

PS: Mr. Grigg,

Do you and your readers want to know what Congress and the rest of the Government, and all its agencies, REALLY think of you and me - the American Public? Go here:

The House Agriculture Committe thinks we are just too stupid to understand the labels on food, and if GMO foods were labeled, we would be too stupid to know that they were sooooo goooood for us, and thus would not buy them.

Excerpt from the article:

"People who oppose GMOs or want them labeled so that consumers can know what they're eating are alarmists who thrive on fear and ignorance, the panel agreed. Labeling GMO foods would only stoke those fears, and harm a beneficial thing, so it should not be allowed, the lawmakers and witnesses agreed."

So you see, Mr. Grigg, when you write about police and judicial abuses, you are merely "stoking the fears and resentments of an ignorant public" who do not appreciate how wonderful our law enforcement officers and law courts are, and who are too dumb to know that you are just getting rich off exploiting those fears and that ignorance.

Moreover, you should be prevented from thus upsetting us poor ignoramuses.

All together now, children: Do we all feel ignorant, and fearful, and exploited by Mr. Grigg?

Ah. I thought so. Try telling that to our betters, those geniuses who sit around all day on Capitol Hill and blow farts out their mouths, and think we are as dumb as shit because we keep on electing them and paying their exorbitant salaries out of our own honest earnings from our own hard work.

I need a drink.

- Lemuel Gulliver

Bevin Chu said...

Another superb article.

I must say however that I doubt that 'Murca will become a Latin American style military dictatorship.

As nasty as the Latin American style military dictatorships were, they were probably moderated to some extent by a comparatively easy-going Latin temperament.

No, when Norte Americanos adopt a military dictatorship, they (we) will go the humorless Nazi Germany/ Fascist Japan route.

If there is such a thing as a "greater evil," that is what 'Murca will be.

Keith said...


A couple of guys have pointed me to articles about the BRICS' new IMF and development bank.
Zero Hedge covers the basics of it

This is the beginning. The process has a long way to run, and hopefully the BRICS' bank will be obsolete very soon.

Such "banks" are a tool of neo colonialism.

Kleptocrats cannot live in green zones for very long - even the most brutal dictators require the consent of the governed, without that consent, they are out numbered, and will very soon find themselves out gunned too. Old Nick Machiavelli, was very clear on this point 500 years ago, and it remains true today.

One of the tools that kleptocrats try to use to gain support is "development" (basically bread and circuses).

Perkins' "Confessions of an economic hitman" describes the process:

A firm of "consultants" is sent to look for "development opportunities" things like big hydro dams and an electric power grid, a big water supply project, de-salination plants, a tourist industry etc.

All of the figures and projections for what sort of payback and development can be expected are exaggerated through the roof, the dictator will be the father of a booming economy, all he has to do is sign on that line...

If he doesn't sign up for it, he is deposed in a coup, or assassinated. If that doesn't work, the military boys are used, and eventually he is replaced.

The aim is that once someone signs up for the "development" it is carried out by united state crony contractors, who profit massively.

The forecasts were wildly exaggerated, and a few years down the line, repayments can't be met - from that point onwards, more and more resources and favours are extorted from the productive people of that country, they are now stuck in a vassal state, held by unserviceable debt.

Any "development" which had taken place suffers from all of the calculational chaos which von Mises describes in "economic calculation in the socialist commonwealth"

It's almost certainly a mal investment which looses money.

Places like Saudi Arabia and the gulf Emirates, almost the entire economy and development is in this form. It is currently subsidized by high oil prices. If oil prices drop, the chaos will be simmiler or worse than the chaos which was revealed when the Soviet system collapsed.

Note that the chaos is not due to the new freedom, it is simply revealed when the subsidies stop and reality asserts itself.

All this is achieved on the back of pieces of paper printed at next to zero cost, and exchanged for real goods and resources.

The BRICS want to be in on that game.

Keith said...


Once the BRICS' bank is up and running, perhaps on Yuan rather than dollars.

Why should a dictator choose it over the great satan that he knows so well?

here we have something extremely interesting

I take it that you understand the concept of "fractional reserve banking?"

You put $10 into your bank account which promises you immediate access to that money. The bank assumes that you're unlikely to want it all at once.

They want to be earning interest on it, so they keep 30 cents on hand for when you want some money out, and they lend me $9.70.

Now two of us are claiming the same money as our own.

I put the $9.70 in my instant access bank account and my bank lends out 97% of it to someone else

Now three of us are claiming the same money!

Three of us have bank statements showing that we have the same money in each of our accounts, and so it goes on.

All of the different banks compete to offer cheaper loans - they can only do this by holding lower reserves.

Eventually, someone wants all of their money at once, and it isn't there!

Everyone runs to their bank to get their money out before someone else takes it out; this is a good old bank run, where the fraud which the bank has been carrying out is very publicly revealed, and the banks creditors will very likely strip the banker of all of his ill gotten gains, even to the shirt off his back.

All of the new businesses which were set up with cheap loans and only earned money that was being spent by people who themselves had cheap loans - are suddenly revealed to be bankrupt -they can't make a real return.

That, in a nutshell is the "Austrian Theory of the Business cycle"


Keith said...

Central banks are a cartelizing tool, which coordinates the fraud of fractional reserving, making it slightly more stable, so that it can advance further each time (and transfer more wealth, and cause more chaos, before reality asserts itself in another collapse).

The IMF and World Bank were the cartel for the central banks.

That cartel is now broken

Why should a dictator take out a loan from the BRICS' bank, over the great satan's bank?

The simple answer is that they'll compete to each offer lower interest rates than the other.

More and more printed money chasing an unchanged quantity of goods and services.

The printers and early receivers of that money get to buy goods and services before the price has adjusted, hence they are able to bid goods and services away from later receivers of that money - a wealth transfer from poor to rich.

This is hopefully the end game of fiat currency and central banking.

Bitcoin has a limit on how many can be "mined". "Mining" is a difficult and expensive process, anyone can try to "mine" them, but no central government can print bitcoins at will, and they'll have a bloody hard time finding who has got them to be able to tax them.

Not that banks areparticularly needed with bitcoin, but any bank tht tries to fractionally reserve with bitcoins, very publicly goes the way of Mount Gox - wiped out with a bank run.

Gresham's Law states that a "good money drives out bad"

Once people catch on that fiat money is just an ever devaluing tool of theft, they will be looking to be paid in precious metals and crypto currencies like bitcoin, they'll be looking to get rid of statist fiat as quickly as they possibly can.

John Maynard Keynes, before he wrote the hash up that is a "general theory of..."

observed that a hyper inflation is an attempt by the people to retain some of their own resources, by raising prices for goods and services faster than the state can steal them with newly printed money.

Put another way, a hyper inflation is a popular repudiation of a fiat money.

If the statists cannot steal through the printing press, cannot borrow through bonds, and cannot steal by tax, then they can only exist as blatant highway robbers - all pretence about the state having any legitimacy is gone.

Anarchy; is living without rulers
it is not living without rules.

Today, that beautiful emergent order just got a little bit closer.

If you are not already a self avowed anarchist, now is the time to begin studying it.

Keith said...

I think if there ever was a military Junta ruling the united state

you'd find it just as clueless, as croniest and as corrupt as any other monopoly

Perhaps even more so.

Earlier points about Mafias are interesting. Like hereditary monarchies, I don't think that mafias are an alternative to freedom, but, like hereditary monarchies, they're better than the social democratic monopolists we have now.

Regardless of a Mafia's origins (usually a deposed regime, eg "triads" are descended from the deposed Ming regime)

and regardless of their bosses ambitions.

They have to compete with each other for customers, and to avoid someone becoming discontent and grassing to the state, or defecting to another "family" or "tribe".

Certainly there are occasional conflicts between "families" or "tribes", but they are expensive and each family must pay for its conflicts itself, so conflicts are desperately avoided - not so with states (especially states with central banks) as they can socialize the costs of their conflicts.

I wonder how short the career (or perhaps even the life!) would be, of any mafioso who'd treated his wife the way Slick Willy treated his when he was parasite in chief?

Competition works wonders as a moderating influence.

Anonymous said...

Anarchy is one of the least agreed upon terms in history. It is easily one the most hyphenated. It ranges from "individualist anarchism" to "socialist anarchism," and every imaginable flavor in between. It has never existed outside of debates.
To use a common example:
Immanuel Kant named four kinds of government:
A. Law and freedom without force (anarchy).
B. Law and force without freedom (despotism).
C. Force without freedom and law (barbarism).
D. Force with freedom and law (republic).
To make my point, I would re-arrange them, with the most common in history at the top:
A. Force without Freedom or Law (barbarism).
B. Force and Law without Freedom (despotism).
C. Force with Law and Freedom (republic).
D. Law and Freedom without Force (anarchy).
I submit that the best form of government we have been able to obtain throughout human history has been the Republic. It is unfortunately very hard to maintain, because it requires a shared level of morality, self-discipline, etc to maintian it. At it's best, it uses the least amount of force to survive. We are in the death rattle stage of our own now. It has been under a well coordinated attack since it's inception.
Since we cannot even hold on to our republic, how can we ever advance to the next stage, your "beautiful emergent order?"
We are instead heading in the opposite direction, as have all failed republics. Force will rule the day for some time to come. Those that have fought so hard to undermine the republican form of government, will likely regret the consequences the most.
Our future generations will have to start the long climb back up, somewhere in the future, well after we are gone.

matthewlh said...

This article was a very nice presentation of comparison of what is going on with police militarization in America.